Classification, Evolution, and the Nature of Biology

Classification, Evolution, and the Nature of Biology

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Historically, naturalists who proposed theories of evolution, including Darwin and Wallace, did so in order to explain the apparent relationship of natural classification. This book begins by exploring the intimate historical relationship between patterns of classification and patterns of phylogeny. However, it is a circular argument to use the data for classification. Alec Panchen presents other evidence for evolution in the form of a historically based but rigorously logical argument. This is followed by a history of methods of classification and phylogeny reconstruction including current mathematical and molecular techniques. The author makes the important claim that if the hierarchical pattern of classification is a real phenomenon, then biology is unique as a science in making taxonomic statements. This conclusion is reached by way of historical reviews of theories of evolutionary mechanism and the philosophy of science as applied to biology. The book is addressed to biologists, particularly taxonomists, concerned with the history and philosophy of their subject, and to philosophers of science concerned with biology. It is also an important source book on methods of classification and the logic of evolutionary theory for students, professional biologists, and paleontologists.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 1139242075
  • 9781139242073

Table of contents

Acknowledgements; 1. Introduction; 2. Patterns of classification; 3. Patterns of phylogeny; 4. Homology and the evidence for evolution; 5. Geological and geographical evidence; 6. Methods of classification: the development of taxonomy; 7. Methods of classification: phenetics and cladistics; 8. Methods of classification: the current debate; 9. Classification and the reconstruction of phylogeny; 10. Is systematics independent?; 11. Mechanisms of evolution: Darwinism and its rivals; 12. Mechanisms of evolution: the synthetic theory; 13. Scientific knowledge; 14. Philosophy and biology; References; Author index; Subject index.
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Review quote

"...should be read by everybody who seeks an up-to-date introduction to the theory and practice of comparative biology and its significance for evolutionary theory. It shows that the science of comparative biology is alive and well." Olivier Rieppel, Nature "Panchen's argument, that a hierarchical structure resulting from evolutionary history is the basis of the special features that make up the science of biology, is not new, but it is necessary. Panchen presents the argument and related philosophical questions clearly." Samuel B. McDowell, BioScience "Finally, for those who are acutely interested in the history and philosophy of taxonomy, this book is probably one of the more current and comprehensive treatments of this subject." Anne D. Yoder "The book's greatest strength lies in its telling of the tale--the history and diversity of thought that underlies modern taxonomic, systematic and evolutionary theory. The breadth of material upon which Panchen draws is remarkable (his reference section totals 37 pages). If nothing else, this book will provide ready access to commentary and citations for many of the most influential works in the history of evolutionary systematics." Thomas J. Rossbach, American Scientist "Panchen's synthesis of the historical development of classification and evolution, richly interwoven with his own critical comments and personal reflections as a vertebrate paleontologist and systematist, is provocative and stimulating...Panchen's book succeeds where other of its kind fail because he is refreshingly honest, because he maintains a healthy respect for skepticism without lapsing into the usual condescending rhetoric..." Terry Harrison, International Journal of Primatology
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